I just read Beowulf's account of his Sika experience, fantastic, and well written. It has prompted me to submit my story, my first stalk. I'm not a writer, but I needed to write this down, so I would be able to look back on it allways. Those of you who have read it on an earlier forum, forgive me. Those who haven't, I hope it inspires any newcomer, and amuses the old hands.
My wife and I have reached that age when we don’t want for much. We try to buy experiences for each other rather than the usual socks and slippers. I was delighted last year to find she had paid for me to go on a three day stalking trip with my brother in law David. Our guide and host was Terry, he and David are work colleagues.
We departed on a cold February day, and made good time to Wilton, just outside Salisbury. After checking in at our bed and breakfast we met our host. Terry, although working in a particularly rough part of London is a real countryman at heart. His Dad was a keeper, and Terry has a great knowledge, which he shares freely. Our first evening was spent on a farm where a group of fallow were doing damage. It would turn out that this group of a dozen or so were very safety conscious. They had read all the information on safe shooting and worked us beautifully. They were standing on a small hill providing a lovely silhouette against the sky.
Each time we approached they would wander over to the skyline and wait for us to get bored. We repeated this exercise several more times, until it got too dark to shoot. Returning to the farm house we found or host had set up an evening lamping rabbits with the farmer. Now you must understand neither David or I had ever done this before and were like lambs to the slaughter.
We perched ourselves in the back of the farmers Land Rover 90. In the back with us was Terry with the lamp. In the cab was James the farmer and Old Fred, a slightly reformed poacher / stalking friend of Terry’s. We moved off, and soon spotted a group of rabbits. The lamp was turned off, and the little 90 accelerated across the stubble field. When it was felt we were close enough the lamp was switched on.
“Shoot……..shoot!” We both did as Terry said and missed. There was much laughter and name calling from both inside and outside the cab. We tore off again till more rabbits were seen and the lamp was again turned off till we were in range. The lamp came on “Quick Quick they’re gonna get away!” We both let rip, but all the rabbits ran off unharmed. Guffaws of laughter again, and some not so helpful comments……….
“We never had two such useless shots before!”
“That last one only had three legs and they still couldn’t get him.”
“Would you like us to run em over?”
“yeah just wound em a bit so you can shoot em before they recover.”
By now our hosts had tears of mirth rolling down their cheeks, and were holding their sides clearly in pain from their raucous laughter.
Almost at the same moment both David and I realised this was a well rehearsed jape. While we thought that we were being entertained, we were in fact the entertainment!
We smiled at each other as the 90 moved off again. This time when we were told to shoot we waited till the vehicle had stopped bouncing and bucking about. Bang! Bang!……….Bang! Bang! All four shots counted.
The game was up. The penny had dropped. We now realised to shoot moving targets from a bouncing fast moving Land Rover was not half as easy as waiting till at least the gun platform was stable.
At the end of the evening we had thirty one bunnies, strangely I forgot to count the empty cases in the back of the truck. As I was brought up not to waste life or meat we then had the not so enviable task of paunching the bunnies before retiring for the night. Sleep came swiftly, as did four thirty and the alarm clock.
We met up with Terry and drove to the edge of the New Forest.
David was stationed in a high seat with Old Fred, while I walked in the forest with Terry. The deer had been using , and had indeed made many tracks through the trees. Without a second glance Terry was able to tell what type of deer had passed by in the soft mud. To me they all looked much the same, and I was so pleased to have such a knowledgeable guide. We briefly saw a pair pf muntjack. Living in South Bucks I was able to identify them straight away, as we often see them at the roadside. Typical of their breed they never stopped moving and never offered a novice like me a chance of a shot. The weather was appalling. Rain and wind hampering our every effort. We stayed until we felt there was no more chance and went for a well earned breakfast.
The rest of the day was spent in recovery, a very short day, as it is in February.
The evening stalk was even less eventful than the morning. Terry and I sat in a high seat watching the darkness arrive, but nothing else. The weather was truly horrible. Very windy, and the high seat swayed to and fro. So much so that I was reminded of the rabbit shooting from the back of a moving Land Rover. I tried several times to hold the cross hairs still on an imaginary target. Totally impossible. I must say at this point I wondered why I hadn’t asked Santa Claus for new socks and slippers. The situation was discussed over a pint later. Both Terry and Fred felt our chances were slim, but as I have often repeated “You’ll never catch a fish if your flies’ not in the water”.
The last morning of our trip arrived cold wet and windy again. We started sitting in a high seat and soon felt our time was being wasted. We climbed down and walked in the forest for some time. Again nothing. Terry was doing his utmost to keep the mood light, pointing out places he had seen deer before and regaling me with tales of some of his less accomplished but nameless guests. (The sign of a good guide/host).
One client was left in a high seat after being asked if he was happy to shoot without a guide. The Gentleman said he was, and was left to his own devices. He was he claimed very experienced but did not have the time to devote to having ground of his own. When Terry returned to the high seat after dark he gave a salutary whistle to announce his arrival. There was no reply. Again he tried to raise his guest by calling out but to no avail. Now very puzzled, Terry went back to his pick up. Driving back to the clients car he found him sitting with the engine running, heater on, lights on. It would seem this hunter was afraid of the dark, and had panicked and run back to the safety of his car, shortly after being left.
Back to the present and the lack of deer.
We drove back to the farm where the rabbit shooting had been. Driving down a track Terry’s truck suddenly halted. He had spotted a small group of Roe warming themselves in the watery sunshine on the lea side of a hedge. David and Old Fred were dispatched to a place where the deer were thought to be headed if we spooked them. I was asked if I would mind crawling in the mud to get close enough. The answer was of course “whatever it takes”. We set off and for the next twenty minutes we crawled under the cover of the hedge to about one hundred and twenty yards from our quarry. Terry scrambled through to the deer side of the hedge to check the range. Looking back at me he whispered “I don’t get paid enough for this you know?” The date was the thirteenth of February, my forty second birthday. It was raining turning to sleet as we lay there in the mud. The wind was driving the sleet sideways, stinging our eyes as it struck us. My reply was the only dry thing for miles. “Yes but look at it this way, at least you are not laying here on your birthday and paying for the privilege like me”. Terry grinned.
I rested the bipod n the ground and peered through the scope.
“Take the doe lying on the right of the group, facing out into the field.”
“I want the bullet placed four inches down from where her shoulder shows above her back bone.”
“STOP, now come off the rifle for a moment.”
My breathing was all over the place. The rifle was going up and down, and there was very little chance I would have hit the mark. Terry pointed out that now we were in position there was not much chance the deer would spook. “Take your time, breathe slowly, breathe half way out and then hold and squeeze.”
The shot rang out!
I lost sight of the deer, but I heard Terry’s voice calmly telling me to reload. With a child’s obedience I did so. The remaining deer had moved only fifty yards out into the field. “They still don’t know where we are”.
“Take the beast at the back of the group, shoot six inches up from where the front leg joins the chest.”
As I squeezed off the round my heart sunk, as did the bipod in the soft clay, the bullet thumping into the ground well short of the target.
I couldn’t understand. The remaining deer had fled, giving no further chance of a shot.
“Reload, I want that deer on the ground shot now! In the head please.”
Still puzzled I looked back to where the group of deer had originally been. The doe was lying with it’s head raised but not making any attempt to get up. I fired, and the animal lay still.
As we walked closer to where the deer lay, it dawned on me what had happened. My first shot had passed through the shoulder and neck of the first deer killing it instantly. The bullet then passed into, the upper back of the second deer, which had been lying slightly behind the first, and completely unseen.
Absolutely amazing! Two deer with the first shot. My first ever experience stalking, and on my birthday too!
I looked down on these two beautiful animals, now dead, and felt a real sadness. I mentioned this, and Terrys' reply.- "When that feeling of sadness leaves you, stop stalking for a while, maybe forever. It is what makes us stalkers, not just killers of deer."
There followed a lot of back slapping and banter regarding shooters who will not spend more than they have to on bullets.
I now have my F.A.C. and two beautiful 202 Sauers in .243, and 7x64 stutzen, as well as a B.R.N.O. 22rimfire. I have shot several deer since that cold wet day in February. None ever quite so memorable as those first two. Furthermore since then whenever I speak to Terry he uses my nick name “Two Does.”